Linguistics Club

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Today's xkcd:

Mouseover title: "If that's too easy, you could try joining Tautology Club, which meets on the date of the Tautology Club meeting."


  1. Oskar Sigvardsson said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 1:02 pm

    A "sesquicentennial" is 150 years, right? So "sesquiannually" would be every 18 months? Am I right? Did I get into Linguistics club?

  2. Philip said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 1:08 pm

    Not so simple, Oskar. That would probably be sesquiennial. Sesquiannual implies 1.5 meetings per year, so… every nine months?

  3. Stan Carey said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

    The first rule of Linguistics Club is: You study how people talk about Linguistics Club.

  4. Jon W said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 1:22 pm

    @Philip: 1.5 meetings per year is every eight months.

  5. mollymooly said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 1:24 pm

    The best known such ambiguity is "bimonthly"; I find the North Americanism "semimonthly" just as opaque and always have to look up which it (apparently unambiguously) means.

  6. Ken Miner said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 1:26 pm

    How about a Solipsist Club? Bertrand Russell wrote in Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (1948): " I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs. Christine Ladd-Franklin, saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others."

    Russell got a lot of amusement from this. But probably, unbeknownst to him, so did Christine Ladd-Franklin. (She was indeed an eminent logician and the first woman to complete all the requirements for a PhD at Johns Hopkins University. She got the degree only in 1926, 44 years after she had earned it, at the age of seventy-eight.)

    As far as I know, solipsism is not mentioned in her writings, and neither the term "solipsism" nor the term "solipsist" occurs in her diary, now available from Google Books. The remark was obviously tongue-in-cheek and the joke is on Russell.

  7. Sally said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 1:26 pm

    Philip, is that 1.5 meetings/year or a meeting every 1.5 years?

  8. Bmblbzzz said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 1:37 pm

    Bimonthly, according to OED, can mean either twice a month or once every two months. Context is all. Semimonthly, well I don't think I've come across that but again, it could be every half-month or half the frequency of monthly, so every two months. Sometimes logic really isn't helpful.

  9. Bmblbzzz said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 1:40 pm

    Of course, it would be far clearer to say either 'fortnightly' or 'every two months'. The same with sesquiannual – it's the kind of club Groucho Marx (or was it Harpo?) wouldn't join!

  10. Stephen Hart said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 1:53 pm
    That page references:

    So anyone who knows how to google can join the Linguistics Club.

  11. Jenny Chu said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 6:51 pm

    @Stephen Hart, speaking of googling, when I searched for Linguistics Club Meeting Schedule I found several that meet weekly or twice monthly, but none which meet sesquiannually.

    And, by the way, at least one Tautology Club also exists on Facebook, inspired by an earlier xkcd:

    … I suppose it's easy to guess its first rule.

  12. Dan Lufkin said,

    November 11, 2015 @ 9:14 pm

    I like to enjoy a sesquitasse of coffee at breakfast.

  13. unekdoud said,

    November 12, 2015 @ 6:54 am

    Linguistics Club holds a meeting once every 18 months, but it's 2.25 times the normal length.

  14. Robert Coren said,

    November 12, 2015 @ 10:42 am

    @Bmblbzzz: It had never occurred to me that "semi-monthly" could mean anything other than "every half-month".

    Also: It was Groucho. Harpo didn't talk.

  15. Jan said,

    November 12, 2015 @ 1:31 pm

    Once a fortnight is so much clearer.

  16. Greg Malivuk said,

    November 12, 2015 @ 2:08 pm

    But once a fortnight isn't the same as twice a month, because months aren't exactly 4 weeks.

  17. Joe said,

    November 12, 2015 @ 2:14 pm

    Speaking of Russell – what about the Apathists Club, where if you cared enough to attend disqualifies you as a member? Reminds me of the Woody Allen line where he didn't want to be in a club that accepted him as a member.

  18. Nathan said,

    November 12, 2015 @ 3:16 pm

    A fortnightly event sometimes happens three times in a month.

  19. Sili said,

    November 12, 2015 @ 5:51 pm

    Far too few sesquipedalian words in both comic and commentary.

  20. SlideSF said,

    November 12, 2015 @ 5:56 pm

    Anyone who has ever worked a job where they get paid semi-monthly (as I do now) knows the difference between that and bi-weekly (or fortnightly, if you prefer). It means two fewer paychecks per year, and you may have to go as long as eighteen days without a check.

  21. Eric P Smith said,

    November 12, 2015 @ 6:55 pm

    There is an old riddle. You have to know that a guinea was 21 shillings. If a fish and a half every day and a half for a week and a half costs a guinea and a half, what does a fish cost?

  22. ryanwc said,

    November 12, 2015 @ 10:59 pm

    >The best known such ambiguity is "bimonthly"; I find the North Americanism "semimonthly" just as opaque and always have to look up which it (apparently unambiguously) means.

    I would argue that semi- has assimilated in American English to somewhat and sort of. So semimonthly means 'sort of monthly', in other words, less than monthly, so every couple months 'or so'. Something semimonthly couldn't possibly happen more than once a month, since the subtext of semi is "not really." And the 'or so' is important too, because there is nothing definite about anything with semi- attached to it in American English.

    Just my sense of the word.

  23. ryanwc said,

    November 12, 2015 @ 11:03 pm

    In my book, twice a month would be semi-fortnightly.

  24. Bart said,

    November 13, 2015 @ 3:32 am

    @ Eric
    3 shillings

  25. richardelguru said,

    November 13, 2015 @ 2:56 pm

    Then there's Sesquitriursine

  26. Svafa said,

    November 13, 2015 @ 6:16 pm

    Easy solution to the "1.5 meetings/year or a meeting every 1.5 years" problem: just go to the meeting every 1.5 years. If there are 1.5 meetings/year then they will also be meeting every 1.5 years.

  27. Kris said,

    November 15, 2015 @ 9:43 am

    One other place the 'sesqui-' prefix still comes up is in undergraduate linear algebra, where inner products in complex vector spaces are described as sesquilinear (i.e. linear in one argument and antilinear in the other).

  28. Eneri Rose said,

    November 16, 2015 @ 9:21 am

    The confusing meanings of bimonthly, semimonthly and fortnightly are just one of many reasons our solar and lunar calendars should be better aligned. We should have 13 months a year: 12 of exactly 4 weeks and one of 29 days, or 30 days in a leap year.

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